The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, 170 NW Fifth Ave., will host the“Fort Mose: Colonial America’s Black Fortress of Freedom” traveling exhibit from May 2 to July 29. This exhibit from the Florida Museum of Natural History explores the history of Fort Mose, America’s first legally sanctioned free black community.
Based on five years of historical and archaeological research at Mose and in Spain, the 500-square-foot exhibit features this archaeological discovery and also explores the African-American colonial experience in the Spanish colonies, from the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the time of the American Revolution. This is a little-known story, and one that offers a powerful alternative image to slavery as the dominant theme in African-American history.
Fort Mose was established in 1738 by escaped slaves from English Carolina who were granted their freedom in Spanish St. Augustine. The men were made members of the Spanish militia, and the fort served as Florida’s first line of defense against the English to the north. These black militias became an important source of defense as early as the 16th century. The Mose militia served in a number of significant battles. The fort was abandoned in 1763, when Spain gave Florida to England, and the entire colony moved to Cuba.
The community of Fort Mose stands as a unique monument to the courageous African Americans who risked, and often lost, their lives in the long struggle to achieve freedom. For more than 150 years, Fort Mose was buried from history on a remote island in the Florida marsh. It has required the combined efforts of many different scientists, historians, and legislators to rediscover Fort Mose and bring to light a long-lost and little-known chapter of our colonial past.